Web 2.0 Hates (Rural) America

With all of the red state/blue state discussions of the election season, it’s probably no big surprise that kids dropping out of the Ivy League are less than concerned with the plight of being young in rural America.  Imagine having to drive miles to school, to see friends and going to the mall is an occurrence for special occasions? Not that anyone there necessarily laments this existence, in fact, they wear it as a badge of honor.

But with broadband access spreading to places where it was rare a few years ago and with families investing in at least one home computer for their kids, social web applications could really harness the separation of rural communities by developing projects that keep kids in these communities.

I realize that in order for the kill rural app to show up, it would have to be developed by a person or group who experienced rural living and appreciated the simplicity. They’d also have to find ways to use Web 2.0 to galvanize people and motivate them to get involved. The most logical extension of this are local newspapers. More and more of them are adopting these clunky CMS programs that allow them to publish to the web and (presumably) use the web as a platform to generate ad revenue.  But the execution almost always falls flat for a host of reasons.

But that brings me back to the plight of our young friends in rural America. No one cares about what they’re doing, they pick up trends from the cities — late — and don’t really have any way of being heard from in any significant way. Rural communities and states are scrambling to find ways to create jobs to keep their kids. It’s a problem that’s being played out around the world, so American agrarian communities are not somehow excepted. There is a resounding hope that one could leverage the web as a way to stifle the mass exodus and yet, that’s not happening and I doubt it’ll happen anytime soon.

The inspiration for this scatterbrained post came when I stumbled upon this site, another one of the millions of online hookup sites that purport to help you meet the hot friends of your friends. They won’t call it that. They call it “networking” or whatever. But really, it’s just glorified stalking and the stuff is creepy. Let’s be real.

I recognize that folks just go the way of the trends and if one site sells or gets valued at a billion, that 10 copycats a day are born trying to outdo them and 50 more are out there trying to somehow “improve” on the same concept.  When will people start to mine the niches looking for stuff that people can actually use? There are still just a fraction of folks on earth who use the web for much of anything. It’s certainly not an indispensable part of their lives like it can be for some of us.

The future of the web will startups comprised of people who decide that it would be fun and meaningful, to build stuff that people can actually use. There are tons of these cropping up there, with sharp folks doing extremely creative things to help reinvent the way we do business from day to day. If you’re looking for an untapped market, look at rural America. What you do with that is your business, but…just like the world’s poor are folks who can and will leverage technology when they get the access, micropolitan areas have the same potential and promise.